FRIEND: “Do you know John Thompson? I saw him on your LinkedIn network and I would like an introduction.” ME: “Sure.” FRIEND: “Do you know him well?” ME: “Yeah. I have known him for 20 years. He used to be a neighbor and our kids went to kindergarten together.” FRIEND: ”Do you know much about the company he works for?” ME: “Now that you mention itI don’t even know who he works for or what they do exactly. But he’s been in sales forever and has been really successful.”  FRIEND: “Do you know what kind of sales?” ME: “Nope.”

And I also didn't know at the time whether John can do anything for my friend, or for me, or me for him, or my friend for him, and so on.

I know John. I like John. I trust John. I would do business with John. I just don’t know what business he’s in.

How many people like John do you have in your network? How many more like John do I have in mine? It’s worth taking a look at.

That encounter changed the way I network. So, for example, any time a new person asks to connect on LinkedIn, I accept, and then ask that person for a coffee chat or lunch date to find out  exactly what they do and if there is in fact any way to help one another.

Now mind you, I’m asking this same thing not only of new people I don’t know well, but others, such as John, whom I know "really well." Or think I do.

It's not about being transactional or calculating. It is simply about being more deliberate.

For many years I used to do some marketing for a group of car dealers. And they work so hard to create new customers, and spend lots of time and money trying to do it through the web, newspaper ads, television ads, newsletters and on and on.

We have all heard it before, but our newest customers are always going to be our most expensive ones, requiring the most time, energy, etc. So why not instead concentrate on connecting with current customers to simply do more business? Because we already have a relationship with them, an emotional connection. They already presumably know, like and trust us. We at least have some basic level of buy-in.

Our newest customers are always going to be our most expensive ones, requiring the most time, energy, etc. So why not instead concentrate on connecting with current customers to simply do more business? Because we already have a relationship with them, an emotional connection.

Think about how this applies to your own network. Many of us spend large amounts of time and energy looking to expand our networks and grow the number of people we know.

That time and energy might very well be better spent simply (re)connecting with people we already know. And like. And trust!

I recently came across this post called, “I’m Tired of People Wanting to Network With Me.” The author is complaining about constantly receiving LinkedIn requests from people who have no clue who she is, but simply want access to the company where she works. Or a referral.

I have been through some of that myself, and can commiserate. But I also do believe in the value of networking and have received both benefits - and business - as a result of my networking work.

I am no great financial mind, but I understand the basic concept of compounding. And your network can exponentially compound the number of people you might do business with. As my LinkedIn profile page prominently displays, my over 1,000 LinkedIn contacts give me "access" to 12 million professionals in their networks.

Your network can exponentially compound the number of people you might do business with.

Back to my "good friend" John. I did meet with him for coffee, and we are in a position to both help each other.

I am giving him some one-on-one 3 Second Selling™ coaching, training and consulting to help him meet some new, hairy, audacious institutional sales goals.

And he in turn is making introductions to colleagues at his company all across the country, that may turn into more speaking and consulting engagements.

So lesson learned. There may be someone like that in your network. I’m sure there are more where John came from in mine.

Before we continue to spend so much time growing and expanding our networks, instead try taking some time to really build a relationship with those already in your network. It just might lead to something memorable, including some business.

Tags: Advice, Linkedin, Business networking, Business networking sites, Creating new customers, Networking